Mary MacKillop Catholic College Wakeley students embraced a stellar opportunity to build their mentoring and problem-solving skills in a multi-school Solar Car Challenge.

As part of the challenge, close to 50 Year 7 to 10 students from the college helped pupils from four Sydney Catholic primary schools design and build a car using solar power that can follow a 20-metre track of plastic conduit.

“Problem solving is one of the key skills” – Robert Hennessey

A Mary MacKillop Catholic College Wakeley female student building a solar carThe regional STEM initiative – run ahead of the University of NSW’s Sunsprint Challenge – asks students to examine the factors that affect the speed of a solar car in two-hour sessions across 10 weeks.  STEM is short for Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield hosted a race day to end the challenge after also mentoring primary school students through the building process.

Mary Mackillop STEM teacher, Robert Hennessey, said students tested gear ratios and soldered electrical circuits as part of the challenge.

“Trying to keep their car on the track and improve its performance each week was a constant challenge,” Mr Hennessey said.

“Time management was also an important skill as the students had to test and trial the car with various components, such as wheel size and angle of the solar panel, to gain the most voltage” – Robert Hennessey

Year 8 students Maryam Baji and Andriana Issa said they enjoyed mentoring Year 5 students through the challenge, sharing their knowledge and skills.

Andriana said one of the best parts of being a mentor for the solar car challenge was “feeling like we are part of something bigger than our school.”

“A highlight was ruining our car and rebuilding it,” laughed Maryam. “We learnt how to work in a team.”


Other Sydney Catholic schools involved in the 2021 Solar Car Challenge: